Sania & Shoaib’s Marriage

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2010-04-12T135448Z_616342459_GM1E64C1OVD01_RTRMADP_3_INDIA-PAKISTAN-WEDDING

NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD: Though theirs is a love marriage, with full support of their family members, it certainly has not been an easy “game” for either the Indian tennis star Sania Mirza (23) or Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Iqbal (28). Beating even Bollywood movies and Indo-Pak diplomatic “feuds” over the drama staged from day one, the “news” generated has had the media and public across the sub-continent “united” at least in being totally interested in developments regarding this wedding.

Soon after their engagement was formally announced, in addition to the media coverage and congratulations the couple received, strong objections were raised from several quarters. The primary one being from Ayesha Siddiqui, claiming to be Shoaib’s first wife. She is also said to have furnished substantial evidence of being married to him through the telephone. Though Shoaib claimed to have been tricked into having married Ayesha, over telephone, the matter continued to hit headlines, till the former finally signed the divorce papers.

Interestingly, while most politicians across the sub-continent have described the Sania-Shoaib wedding as their “personal” decision, a few with an anti-Pakistan attitude have gone overboard in criticizing it. These include Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray who expressed apprehension over Sania’s marrying a Pakistani. Despite Sania having clarified that she would continue playing for India, the likes of Thackeray said that after her marriage she would cease being an Indian.  

Of course, Sania-Shoaib’s wedding is not the first instance of a marital bond between families from India and Pakistan. Numerous marriages between Indian and Pakistani Muslims have continued to take place, even though Indo-Pak ties have often been fairly tense. Nevertheless, theirs is one of the few weddings between celebrities and one that has had people with the media keeping a track of developments taking place. 

Credit must be given to Sania and her family for having virtually remained unfazed by hue and cry raised over Ayesha’s claims and objections to her marrying a Pakistani. Defending Shoaib, Sania even said that her family had been aware of Ayesha’s stand from the beginning.

Sania and Shoaib’s wedding is also one of the few ones that has kept the Indian Ulema (Muslim clerics) fairly busy. When Ayesha’s claims were in the news, clerics were busy answering questions on whether her nikah with Shoaib was valid or not. Interestingly, even though Shoaib has signed the divorce papers, doubts prevail over the authenticity of “evidence” provided by Ayesha. The intriguing questions raised are regarding identity of witnesses from the two sides at the time of nikah over phone in 2002; what prevented the two from living together since then and so forth. In general, it was held, irrespective of whether Ayesha’s claims were correct or not, Sania and Shoaib’s wedding could not be prevented by them. This is because, Shoaib can have two, three, even four wives at one time, as per the Muslim law. In this context, rather than encourage speculations about Sania being his “second” wife, by signing the divorce papers on April 7, Shoaib clearly laid out that she would be his only wife. Besides, as Ayesha had also filed an FIR against Shoaib, blaming him for fraud and criminal intimidation, he apparently was against the case getting more complicated and controversial.

Explaining his decision to finally sign the divorce papers, even though earlier he had claimed that Ayesha had tricked him into nikah over phone, Shoaid stated: “I am no one to judge what is wrong or what is right as the one above knows the truth. I have done what was the best amicable thing to do as it was getting beyond reasoning as each day unfolded.” “I have realized that media is part of my family, and request all of you to pray for me and Sania as we are embarking on a beautiful journey of marriage,” Shoaib said.

Seldom has any wedding created furor over fatwas, as that of Sania and Shoaib. It may be noted, in secular India, while the respected clerics have their right to issue fatwas on what they view as important, individuals are not bound to follow the same. A few clerics voiced objections to Sania and Shoaib appearing together for press conferences, before their wedding. They also objected to Shoaib staying at Sania’s residence. Describing these activities as “forbidden” in Islam, a Sunni Ulema board issued a fatwa against these and even asked Muslims to stay away from their wedding.

Sania’s family promptly responded to this fatwa, by issuing a statement: “We would like to clarify that there has been a misunderstanding in some quarters. The groom has not been staying in the Mirza residence for the last few days.” Shoaib had been staying there since his arrival from Pakistan on April 2. His family members, however, remained there while Shoaib moved out in keeping with traditional customs.

Meanwhile, when questioned on this fatwa, All India Sunni Ulema Board (AISUB) stated: “We have nothing to do with this outfit. Such fatwas cannot be issued.”
The date of the wedding also kept all wondering as to when would it take place. At one point, “reports” floated of their getting married on April 9, later the actual date was said to be April 15, while “news” also circulated about it taking place on April 13. These speculations were settled with their finally getting married on April 12.

Now finally wed, how far will the two succeed in easing tension between India and Pakistan, is the diplomatic angle being accorded to Sania-Shoaib’s “love-match.”

12-16

Indo-Pak Cricket Diplomacy Suffers

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Indo-Pak cricket diplomacy has been put to test again with the exclusion of Pakistani cricket players from the Indian Premier League (IPL)’s third season matches. Ironically, in the past, while Indo-Pak cricket has suffered because of bilateral tension, the game has also played a major role in adding a healing touch to the strained relations between the two countries. This time, even as some confusion still prevails as to who should be blamed for ignoring Pakistani players, the Indian government has spared little time in displaying its stand against this move. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “I think it is disservice to cricket that some of these players (Pakistani) were not picked. I don’t know why the IPL teams acted in the manner they acted. But certainly to suggest that there was a hint or nudge from the Government is completely untrue” (January 26).

Chidambaram’s stand assumes importance as it suggests that the Indian government does not want to be blamed for exclusion of Pakistani players from IPL’s Twenty20. It may be recalled that last year Chidambaram had warned the IPL against holding of the cricket tournament in the electoral season. His concern was providing security. The IPL boss Lalit Modi had then decided to hold the event in South Africa. The Indian government is apparently annoyed at exclusion of Pakistani players as it amounts to IPL adding tension to the already fragile Indo-Pak ties. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is understood to be upset at exclusion of Pakistani players as, in his opinion, according to sources, this amounts to closing a “window of opportunity” to normalize the tense ties. Had Chidambaram refused to comment or had even restrained from criticizing the IPL, the Indian government’s stand would have carried little diplomatic or political significance. His statement that Indian government must not be blamed for IPL’s move, which he has also criticized, apparently is meant to calm the Pakistani government and appease the cricket fans waiting for the Pakistani players. Describing the latter as “among the best in Twenty20,” Chidambaram said: “These players were coming as individuals, it was not a Pakistani team.”

But the damage has been done. Reacting against IPL’s move, the Pakistani Cricket Board (PCB) withdrew the no objection certificates they had issued earlier to their players to participate in IPL. In the IPL auction held in Mumbai on January 19, 11 Pakistani players were included. None were bought by franchises leading to subsequent allegations, criticism and blame-game.  Launched by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on lines of United States National Basketball League (NBA), the IPL works on a franchise-system, which were put to auction for the first time on January 24, 2008.

An attempt has been made by some franchise owners to ease the tension by saying that “security” concerns prompted them to exclude Pakistani players. Angry and hurt, legendary Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan said in Karachi: “If the IPL franchises had any concerns about security and other issues about signing on our players they should have been clear about this and not invited them to the auction in the first place. But to include them in the auction and then to snub them was appalling and our cricket board and government should lodge a strong protest with the Indian government over this” (January 31). 

Bollywood superstar, Shahrukh Khan – who is co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)- team said that he would have selected a Pakistani player for IPL matches if his team had a slot. “Pakistani cricketers are champions and they should be selected for IPL. Their exclusion from IPL is an insult.” In the IPL’s first edition, KKR had five players from Pakistan. Referring to security concerns, he said: “If they were any issues, they should have been put on board earlier. Everything can happen respectfully.” Giving emphasis to the need for India and Pakistan to have normal relations, he said: “We are great neighbors, They are good neighbors. Let us love each other.” “Let me be honest. My family is from Pakistan, my father was born there and his family is from there,” he said.

Shahrukh’s comments have provoked protests from Shiv Sena activists. In his editorial in party’s mouthpiece, Saamna, Sena chief Bal Thackeray wrote that Shahrukh deserves Pakistan’s highest civilian award “Nishaan-e-Pakistan” for supporting Pakistani cricketers’ inclusion in IPL. Sena activists demonstrated outside Shahrukh’s bungalow “Mannat” at Bandra. Suggesting that Shahrukh should go to Pakistan, they displayed a travel ticket for him from Mumbai to Karachi. They also tore down posters of Shahrukh’s new film, “My Name is Khan” and wrote to theatre owners asking them not to screen this move. Security was increased outside Shahrukh’s Bandra residence and a number of protestors were arrested (January 31).

Meanwhile, the Indian government is trying its best to repeatedly assert that it is against IPL’s exclusion of Pakistani players. “No one in the government wanted such a situation,” a senior government official said. Another said: “We had fast-tracked the visa process and issued them multi-entry visas in December and January so that they could take part in the tournament.”

Sports Minister M.S. Gill expressed the “hope that there will soon be an opportunity for these boys to play exciting cricket in India.” Criticizing the present fiasco, he said: “I trust that the IPL corporate owners have also taken a small lesson from it. Everyone must realize that sport is the bedrock of people-to-people contact, which we need to promote with our neighbors.” Indian government remains hopeful that Indo-Pak cricket diplomacy will be back on track soon, with the two countries’ players on one pitch!

12-6

Political Battle Over Regional Vs National Identity/Languages

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)  India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Abu Asim Azmi’s decision to take oath in Hindi in Maharashtra Vidhan Bhavan on November 9 has not only enhanced his political importance but has also proved politically damaging for his rivals. Defying Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)’s diktat for taking oath only in Marathi, Azmi took oath in Hindi. Though the few minutes, during which Azmi was manhandled and slapped by MNS activists inside the Vidhan Bhavan for taking oath in Hindi must have been traumatic for the SP leader, they have earned him substantial media coverage, adding to his political stature within his own party and across the country.

Amid the backdrop of SP faring poorly in recently held by polls, the worst shock of which is defeat of SP chief Mulayam Singh’s daughter-in-law Dimple from Firozabad, the party apparently is counting on Azmi’s newly earned popularity to help the party improve its political image. Dimple was defeated by Congress candidate Raj Babbar by more than 85,000 votes. The party’s poor performance is linked with it having lost Muslim votes because of its alliance with Kalyan Singh, who was the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and a member of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), when the Babari Masjid was demolished in 1992. The SP has thus decided to distance itself from Kalyan Singh and felicitate Azmi to gain the lost Muslim-base.

“Azmi upheld the prestige of the national language in the anti-Hindi environment prevailing in Maharashtra,” the SP stated at its meeting in Lucknow (November 14). Signaling that SP’s political friendship with Kalyan Singh had ceased, Mulayam Singh said:  “He is not a part of the Samajwadi Party. Kalyan Singh himself says he is not part of any party.”

Interestingly, the political limelight gained by Azmi on taking oath in Hindi has prompted quite a few Marathi celebrities to clarify their stand on their regional and national identity. Cricket maestro Sachin Tendulkar said: “Mumbai belongs to India. That is how I look at it. And I am a Maharashtrian and I am extremely proud of that but I am an Indian first.” (November 13) Tendulkar’s stand has certainly added some fire to the fight on “Maratha-issue” and also prompted more politicians to add their voice to it. 

Criticizing Tendulkar strongly for his remarks, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray said in his party mouthpiece, Samana: “By making these remarks, you have got run-out on the pitch of Marathi psyche. You were not even born when the Marathi Manoos got Mumbai and 105 Marathi people sacrificed their lives to get Mumbai.”
Though it is not the first time that Thackeray has made such comments, they have invited greater political attention than before because of “Marathi-identity” being strongly in news.  Not surprisingly, Tendulkar has won strong applause from various political leaders for his comments. “His statement has been made in the true sportsman spirit. Though he is a Maharashtrian, he plays for the country. This (Tendulkar’s comment) will unite the entire country,” according to Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan. 

Among others who expressed appreciation for Tendulkar’s remarks and also congratulated him for taking the stand are Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Minority Affairs Minister (central cabinet) Salman Khurshid and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad. Thackeray has been “clean-bowled” by Tendulkar, Khurshid said.

Thackeray’s criticism of Tendulkar has not won any support from the saffron brigade. Taking a guarded stand on the controversy raised in Maharashtra over “Marathi,” without specifically referring to the issue, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat said at a public rally in Pune: “There are certain issues of Marathi-speaking people and agitations on this can be justified. But it should not be at the cost of national integration and harmony.” (November 15)  Declining to question Tendulkar’s stand, BJP leader Arun Jaitley said in New Delhi: “If Maharashtrian says he is proud of being a Maharashtrian as well as an Indian, then I find this statement absolutely correct.” (November 16)

Welcoming Tendulkar’s stand, Azmi said: “I admire Sachin Tendulkar to have not got cowed down by Shiv Sena’s intimidation tactics and having proudly declared that he was an Indian first. Sachin’s remark must make the Sena ruffians understand that after all, Maharashtra is like any other state – a part of the Indian nation.”  Azmi is also hopeful that his party would be able to regain the support of Muslim-vote. On this, he said: “I welcome my party president’s decision to distance himself from the man who was responsible for demolition of the Babari Masjid. I wonder what had led him to shake hands with Kalyan Singh, but thankfully realization dawned on my Netaji (Mulayam Singh), who finally decided to part ways with that man.” “I am sure that Muslims who had chosen to distance themselves from the SP because of this reason, would once again return to stand by Mulayam, whose contribution to the cause of minorities was unmatched,” Azmi said. SP has a long political innings to play, during which it certainly is counting on projecting Azmi as its Muslim face. It is to be watched whether the limelight gained by Azmi on taking oath in Hindi will help turn the political trend in SP’s favor or not. 

11-48